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Chelsea shatter Spurs’ top four bid

Chelsea delivered a hammer blow to Tottenham’s hopes of qualifying for the
Champions League with a 2-0 win against their spluttering London rivals on
Thursday.

  • Trevoh Chalobah’s first goal since March 2022 put Chelsea ahead in the first half
    at Stamford Bridge.
  • The much-maligned Nicolas Jackson wrapped up the points in the closing stages
    with his 14th goal of a difficult first season with the Blues.
  • After losses to Arsenal and Newcastle, fifth-placed Tottenham’s third successive
    defeat leaves them seven points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

Tottenham have four games left, while Villa have three to go, making the north
Londoners rank outsiders to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

It was another painful setback for Tottenham, who have squandered the good will
built by Ange Postecoglou for much of the Australian’s first season in charge.

“We lacked belief and conviction in our game,” Postecoglou said. “I don’t know if
it is low confidence but we are not playing with the mindset we need.

“It wasn’t good enough and I have to take responsibility for that. It is on me.”

While Postecoglou licks his wounds, Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino enjoyed a
second win over his former club this season following the 4-1 success in
November.

Pochettino had irritated Chelsea fans by admitting he couldn’t “hide his
emotions” for the club he managed for five years and led to the 2019 Champions
League final.

But he put those feelings aside to provide the result they wanted, keeping alive
eighth-placed Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for Europe and making it just one
defeat in 34 home league games against Tottenham.

“The first half was fantastic. Then you have to contain and suffer. Tottenham have
quality players. All credit to the players. They really showed the way we want to build this,”

–  Pochettino

Postecoglou had criticised Tottenham’s sloppy performance in Sunday’s 3-2
defeat against Arsenal and responded by making five changes, with Richarlison
brought in and James Maddison dropped.

But in Pochettino’s 400th match in English football, the Chelsea manager should

Jackson sprinted into the Tottenham area for a shot that went under Guglielmo
Vicario but lacked the power to beat Mickey van de Ven’s clearance off the line,
with Cole Palmer somehow scooping the loose ball over from close-range.

Moments later, Chelsea winger Noni Madueke embarked on a dynamic run before
firing just over from the edge of the area.

Four of the five goals conceded by Tottenham in their previous two games had
come from set-pieces and they were punished for more woeful dead-ball marking
in the 24th minute.

Conor Gallagher’s free-kick looped into the area and Chalobah was left unmarked
to power a superb header over Vicario from 12 yards.

That made it 22 goals conceded from set plays in league games by Postecoglou’s
creaky defence this term.

Tottenham claimed Chelsea defender Marc Cucurella had blocked Brennan
Johnson from marking Chalobah, but VAR ignored their protests.

Undone by their set-piece frailties, Tottenham almost took advantage of Chelsea’s
defensive deficiencies with a Cristian Romero header that clipped the post from
Pedro Porro’s free-kick.

Postecoglou looked increasingly irate by the half-time whistle and his chastened
players responded to their manager’s frustration with a more lively second half
display.

Porro’s drive from a tight angle forced Djordje Petrovic to save in Tottenham’s
most threatening moment.

But Chelsea landed the knockout punch in the 72nd minute.
Palmer’s fierce free-kick cannoned down off the bar towards Jackson, who reacted
quickest to head home from six yards.

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